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Non-conventional and alternative energy and minerals

Thus far, the discussion has focused primarily on conventional energy and minerals as the material base for economic development within the nations of South-East Asia. However. it is recognized that there are non-conventional or alternative sources of supply which will undoubtedly play an increasing role in development as growth proceeds. Virtually none of these latter sources, however, should be viewed as being free of environmental impacts; in fact, they may, in some cases, have significantly greater effect on the environment. From an energy perspective, the alternatives range from nuclear power through geothermal and biomass energy to solar, wind, tidal and hydropower. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to discuss each in detail. However, some general comments can be made about the importance of these alternative energy sources in the energy mix within the region and with respect to their environmental impacts.

A re-examination of Table 4.5 which shows the structure of Asia-Pacific energy demand (Fesharaki and Yamaguchi, 1991) reveals that, within the region, nuclear power will grow slowly from 6 per cent in 1988 to perhaps 10 per cent by the year 2000. No nuclear power production is anticipated for Indonesia, China or the Philippines, and further expansion in nations with existing nuclear capability will be limited primarily to nuclear-power plants presently under construction or firmly planned in nations such as Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. Even in the latter countries, proposed plans face strong environmental opposition, and Japan has already postponed construction of plants that would have produced up to 10,000 megawatts of nuclear capacity. The environmental opposition has been strengthened by events at Three Mile Island in the United States and, more recently, Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union, and by persistent small 'episodes' in plants world-wide. This opposition, coupled with the problem of nuclear-waste disposal, other associated environmental impacts and rapidly rising costs of construction, makes the nuclear option extremely doubtful for the Asia-Pacific region and for the nations of South-East Asia specifically.

Similarly, unless major but doubtful plans are implemented, the development of hydropower and other alternative power sources is anticipated to increase only marginally from 6 to 7 per cent by the year 2000 (see Table 4.5). Notwithstanding the successes of hydropower throughout the region, and geothermal and biomass energy in Indonesia and the Philippines, the role of alternative energy is anticipated to be small because of the relatively high costs of alternative solar and wind energy generation, the limited availability of geothermal sources, the limited efficiency of biomass for large-scale production of energy, and the relative cost and difficulties with developing efficient tidal power. Although the major constraints in the early 1990s are economic and technological, it is also true that significant advances in reducing costs and developing the required technologies are being made. With such advances, these alternative energy sources may play a large role in the energy mix of the region in the future.

Although alternative power sources are not without their environmental impacts and costs, in most instances, they may be less than those associated with conventional energy. Conversely, the large areas affected by hydrodevelopment, the land resources required for solar and wind generation, increased emissions of geothermal areas, and land and water effects of biomass production all represent significant impacts and costs. In the main, these high costs yield energy generation efficiencies well below those of conventional sources.

For the mineral industries, the major trends have been substitution of metals with plastic and ceramic products, substitution of one metal for another, and recycling. Each of these trends acts differently in terms of reducing or transferring metal demand and consumption, but each also has significant associated environmental impacts and costs.

The substitution of plastics and ceramics for specific metals is widely recognized as a major world-wide trend within industry, particularly in developed nations. This has, and increasingly will have, the effect of reducing metal demand by certain sectors of the economy. Although this substitution lowers metal demand, it must be emphasized that the substitutes utilize commodities which themselves have environmental effects, and often these effects are more serious than those of the commodity they replace. As an example, most plastics are derived from petrochemicals where the environmental impacts of oil refining and petrochemical production may be more significant than those associated with metal production. It should also be noted that, in limited areas, metals are replacing non-metals such as in the semiconductor-chip industry where traditional silicon chips are being replaced by gallium arsenide chips. This is an example of substitution which may result not only in greater environmental costs and impacts but, in this case, increased metal usage.

Aluminium is substituted for steel in beverage containers, and for copper in electrical transmission lines; gold is replaced by copper as bonding wire on semiconductor chips; and titanium is used instead of tungsten in tool and die applications. Overall, it may be argued that the replacement of metals with metals merely substitutes the environmental costs of one for the other. In many cases, aluminium is the principal alternative metal. In addition to its environmental impacts, one must add those associated with increased energy consumption. Aluminium processing requires substantially more power per unit of production than does copper or steel-the two metals it most commonly replaces.

Recycling of metals is both a major ongoing undertaking in today's industry and an increasing factor for the future, and one of the few activities which actually reduces the amount of metal needed to be produced. In the United States, for example, the recycling of aluminium, copper, lead and zinc in 1989 was respectively 20, 24, 57 and 10 per cent of the total consumption of each metal. It is, however, a complex process which requires significant energy, usually large quantities of chemicals and produces a proportionally high amount of hazardous waste (5-35 per cent of total volume). The environmental impacts and costs associated with recycling must, therefore, be balanced against those of producing the primary metals from mineral deposits. On average, however, they are lower simply because the quantities of materials that must be treated and the energy consumed are much smaller, per unit of metal produced, in recycling than primary metal production.

With both energy and minerals, the technical opportunities for substituting nonconventional or altemative sources for conventional ones are significant. However, such substitutions are not taking place, nor are they expected to take place, on a large-scale within South-East Asia. The role of non-conventional or alternative energy and mineral sources within the Asia-Pacific region will be dependent on the economic and environmental trade-offs that each presents. For the present, low cost dictates that conventional sources dominate in South-East Asia as they do virtually everywhere else in the world.

Economic development, environment and the future

The central themes of this discussion have been the linkage between economic development and population growth and increasing energy and mineral demand; between expanding energy and mineral development and usage and increasing environmental impacts; and, ultimately, the interaction of economic development, population growth, energy and mineral development and demand, environmental impacts and direct and indirect environmental costs. Overshadowing this and other discussions of these subjects is the a priori 'either/or' conflict which assumes large-scale trade-offs of the environment for development or vice versa, and how these opposite extremes can be resolved within a context of sustainable economic development.

The solution to this dilemma may lie in learning from the experience of the past and applying this to the future, particularly for the nations of South-East Asia where the conflicts are, and will be, greatest. The major lessons to be reamed and applied are in the areas of policy, technology, co-operation and information.


Effective development policy must first and foremost recognize that its formulation and implementation needs to account for its impact on the environment and, similarly, environmental policy must recognize its impact on economic development. This is rarely the case either internationally or within South-East Asia. All too often each policy is formulated with little or no input from the respective formulators or their constituents; for example, economic policies which subsidize oil, gas, fertilizer and metal use effectively promote the environmental impacts resulting from increased usage and development. Similarly environmental policy which stipulates 'unreasonably' high standards which, de facto, exclude certain industries or activities may unnecessarily retard economic development. Emission-control standards for coal-fired power stations, requiring costly or unavailable technologies, may result in curtailed energy supply or conversion to altemate fuels with equally deleterious environmental effects.

Whatever policies are adopted for environmental protection it is imperative that they provide for effective and continued monitoring, consistent enforcement, institutionalization within government and administrative flexibility (within prescribed bounds). In addition, it must be remembered that, all too often particularly within developing nations, the capacity to enact policy outstrips the ability to monitor and enforce the policy. There are large added costs associated with monitoring and enforcement which are another form of both direct and indirect environmental costs.


It is within the area of technology that the fundamental issues of economic development and economic costs are most closely linked. As a general rule, and perhaps in an expression of blind faith, it can be asserted that mankind's ability to resolve the problems of energy, minerals, environment and economic development lies in technology. Certainly, to some extent, this contention is based on historical fact as evidenced by the industrial revolution, development of offshore drilling for oil and gas and secondary recovery technologies, the mining of low-grade, high-tonnage ore deposits, and development of emission controls and water-purification systems. Future clean-coal and emission-control technologies. biometallurgy techniques and alternative fuels will all play a major role in providing energy and minerals while reducing the impact on the environment. There are at present, however, significant limitations to reliance on technology and on technological advances in the future.

First, advanced technologies are costly to develop, install and utilize, often amounting to tens or hundreds of millions of dollars per installation or use. In many developed and developing countries, the cost of advanced methods is prohibitive if economic growth is to be sustained. Secondly, access to and availability of new technologies is limited, particularly in the developing nations such as those of South-East Asia. Obviously, not all new technologies come from the developed nations but a large proportion do. Access is often restricted by government policy as much as by economic cost. Thirdly, for the future, new technologies will require high and continuing amounts of government and private research and development (R&D) funding. Declining rates of R&D sponsorship in many countries, among them the United States and United Kingdom, raise serious concerns as to whether future technologies, needed to provide energy and minerals and protect the environment, will be developed.

Irrespective of the above concems, there is little question that new technologies can and will be developed which have the capacity to increase energy and mineral supply while simultaneously lowering environmental impacts. Technological developments will also result in an increased efficiency in utilization, often cited as the most significant action that can be taken to reduce usage and, hence, the associated environmental degradation. The real question is: Will such technologies be available, at an appropriate cost, to ensure their utilization while, at the same time, promoting economic development?


Clearly, the globalization of pollution and world-wide environmental problems, such as a depleting ozone layer, acid rain and greenhouse effects, have moved countries towards unprecedented levels of co-operation in resolving these issues, or at least in understanding them. Although international collaboration is increasing, the unresolved question is whether levels of co-operation between and within government and industry and between development proponents and environmental groups is growing. Although the fortunate answer in general is 'yes', the specific answer is most likely, 'Yes, but not at a rate sufficient to mitigate and/or prevent continuing environmental degradation.'

A major opportunity exists within the nations of South-East Asia to open and maintain an effective dialogue which will result in the creation of environmentally sound development projects and policies. Such co-operation may in the early 1990s occur on a project-by-project basis for many 'greenfield' energy and mineral developments. It is, however, less common with respect to downstream activities involving existing facilities. The resolution of these issues will result from both co-operation, resulting in an understanding of the issues on all sides, and from environmentally sound economic policies, which will provide both the incentive and the possibility to implement effective, environmentally sustainable developments.


The rapidly increasing rate, scale and complexity of interactions surrounding economic development, population growth, energy and mineral development and use, and the associated environmental impacts present a virtually limitless number of problems and opportunities. A key element in dealing competently with these complexities is freely available and shared information. Effective national policies and options relating to economic development and the environment must be based on the experience and data available both within and outside individual nations. A critical information need, both nationally and internationally, is for base-line data on national stocks (renewable and nonrenewable resources, biodiversity, land, population) in order to frame proposals and plans for sustained economic development. However, since virtually all issues are now global in their impact, to a greater or lesser degree, the acquisition of base-line data must be extended both regionally and globally.

Equally important with access to information is the capacity to utilize such information in effective planning and policy. As economic development, energy and mineral and environmental issues assume even greater importance in the future, it is believed that the hope for sustainable development lies in information communicated internationally and acted upon with a view towards the future.

Summary and conclusions

Globally, the link between increasing economic development, population, energy and mineral demand and environmental degradation has been demonstrated. Although the rate, scope and intensity of the interactions may vary with individual nations and stages of economic development, the ensuing problems are regrettably common and increasing, particularly with respect to the environment.

As the fastest-growing economic region of the world, the Asia-Pacific area is also faced with rapidly increasing demand for energy and minerals. Although the energy mix is shifting towards a greater utilization of gas, absolute demand for oil and coal is expanding but non-conventional sources, such as hydropower, geothermal, solar, wind and biomass energy, are experiencing little or no growth as a proportion of the total. Similarly, in the mineral sector, demand for metals is increasing rapidly, requiring largescale developments and/or expansion of mining, smelting and processing facilities.

The rapid growth of energy and mineral demand and production brings with it large environmental costs. Direct (internalized) environmental costs are, at present, the focus of attention of governments in terms of their impact on economic development. Indirect (externalized) costs, which for the most part do not appear in national economic accounts, may perhaps be greater than direct costs and must be included in future assessments of environmental costs. Overall direct environmental costs within the region during the 1990s will exceed $3 billion for oil refining alone and $2-2.2 billion for mineral developments. Actual costs may be substantially higher, depending upon national environmental policies and standards.

For the nations of South-East Asia, the decade of the 1990s will be one of challenge with respect to balancing economic growth with environmental preservation: the dual goals of sustainable development. The maintenance of economic growth is essential from the perspective of reducing poverty within the individual countries, for only through continued growth can the economic and material resource needs of the ever-increasing population be met. From a global perspective, the nations of South-East Asia, and to a greater extent those of the OECD, must develop and implement environmental policies which address the issues of global warming, acid rain, global metal pollution and sustainable development for future generations.

Editorial comment

Discussion of Clark's Chapter 4 was led by Dr Endro Utomo of the Indonesian Ministry of Mines and Energy. He argued that energy and mineral use in South-East Asia should be viewed as part of the global system as much of the oil, gas, tin, nickel and bauxite is exported. There is a conflict between 'growth' with its necessary increase in greenhouse gas emissions, and 'stasis', which implies persistence of poverty and all the environmental problems associated with poverty. A reduction of 5 per cent in emissions from OECD countries could, however, permit a large increase in emissions from the less developed countries, without any increase in total global pollution.

This is a view subsequently taken up, more forcibly than in Yogyakarta, by Agarwal and Narain (1991) who maintain that to demand full co-operation from the developing countries in global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is, in effect, 'environmental colonialism'. Ingeniously, they argue that the natural carbon and methane sinks should be distributed between countries by population in order to arrive at permissible quotas. This would, in effect, allow the large and populous developing countries to double their emissions without adding to global pollution. While the discussants did not go so far, they clearly felt that an increase in energy generation is a necessary part of development in the South-East Asian region, and that unavoidable increases in emissions from this area and other developing regions should be offset by really significant reductions in the developed lands.

Utomo was followed by Soegiarto, who queried the gloomy prognostication presented by Clark. He, and others, raised the question of alternative energy sources, including solar energy and biogas. However, while the most promising source would seem to be hydroelectricity, certain large plans have been halted for environmental reasons, and because so many people would have been displaced by dam construction. Clearly, a trade-off between different forms of environmental damage should be considered. It was also urged that joint research between developed and developing countries is required on the harnessing of solar energy. More generally, developing countries must define lifestyles which are not simply a copy of those in developed countries. There is no need to follow the West in its wasteful over-consumption of energy.


5. The onslaught on the forests in south-east Asia

The nature of the forest resource
Deforestation and forest degradation: Apportioning blame
Managing the forest: The role of government in land-use planning
Rebuilding the forests
The future of the forests


The nature of the forest resource

THE countries of South-East Asia may be divided floristically into two distinct provinces: insular (sometimes known as Malesia) and continental. In the western regions of Malesia-particularly Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia and the island of Borneo (Kalimantan, Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei)-are found the ever-moist conditions encouraging the growth of tropical rain forests. The dense, tall forest of the Dipterocarpaceae family is particularly characteristic of non-swampy lowland areas (below 400 metres). The flora in this part of Malesia is exceedingly rich and varied, although several different dipterocarp species will grow together, greatly adding to ease of exploitation. In a sample plot at Wanariset, East Kalimantan (the richest forest in Indonesia), 30 species of dipterocarp were found; similar plots in North Sumatra yielded 12 species (Kartawinata, 1990).

As Whitmore (1984: 7) has put it: 'The combination of relatively few timber groups, a very high stocking of trees of huge stature with clear bole lengths commonly attaining 70m or more and timbers of relatively light weight has contributed to an explosive increase in the exploitation of these forests since the end of World War 11.' Since the 1970s, these forests, particularly the light hardwood species of the Shorea and Parashorea genera (light red, dark red, yellow and white meranti, lauan, white seraya), have dominated the tropical timber trade.

Using floristic analysis to group areas together, Laumonier (1990) classified Borneo, Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia to comprise one coherent subregion, although each land mass remains floristically distinct. This subregion is related also to Java, but only distantly to the Philippines. Van Balgooy (1987) has also found the Philippines to be different, grouping her more closely with Sulawesi at the generic level. Further east towards Irian Jaya and Papua New Guinea, the dipterocarps become less dominant, with increasing floristic poverty.

In much of continental South-East Asia north of Peninsular Malaysia, in parts of the northern Philippines and in those areas of eastern Indonesia influenced by the Australian land mass, a strongly seasonal or monsoonal rainfall has resulted in a mixed forest. In Thailand and Myanmar, this includes valuable deciduous species such as teak (Tectona grandis), in addition to the dipterocarps. While the largest number of dipterocarp genera and species occurs in Borneo, commercial stocking is in fact highest in the drier margins where fewer species predominate (Collins, Sayer and Whitmore, 1991). In general, it appears that elevation and rainfall, especially the length of the dry season, are the major influences on vegetation, with soils and geology being of lesser importance, although locally significant.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) classifies the forest (without regard to species) as closed broadleaf forests, open broadleaf forests, bamboo forests, coniferous forests, forest fallows and shrubs (Rag, 1989, 1990b). Closed broadleaf forests, the most valuable of all the types, are found in all countries of the region, with by far the largest and richest resource in Indonesia, followed by Myanmar and Malaysia. They are defined by Rao (1989: 4) as 'stands without continuous grass cover whose crowns cover a high proportion of the area, generally multistoreyed, which have not been cleared for agriculture in the past 20 to 30 years'. They may, however, be managed or 'logged over'. Open broadleaf forests contain admixtures of grass, with a minimum of 10 per cent tree cover. Most of these are in continental South-East Asia, especially Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Vietnam possesses the largest areas of bamboo forest, largely in the north; stretches in southern Vietnam may partly be a result of the extensive defoliation during the war which ended in 1975 (SIPRI, 1976; Whitmore, 1984). Small areas of coniferous species are found in most countries, both mainland and insular.

Table 5.1 presents the area of closed broadleaf forests for all countries in South-East Asia, as measured by the FAO in 1980, with estimated updates for 1985 and projections for 1990 (where available), and subregional totals for 1990. The country-level results of the FAO's detailed 1990 measurements have not yet been released. Using 1991 sources, Table 5.2 shows the total area of each country estimated to be still under 'forest'. These data employ different and not necessarily comparable definitions. There is no doubt that the resource has experienced serious and rapid decline over the past 10 years, so that several countries in the region have now a much-depleted forest cover. This is as little as 21.5 per cent of total land area in the Philippines. According to official sources, it is perhaps 28 per cent in Thailand and Vietnam, although much lower figures have been argued for both these states (Collins, Sayer and Whitmore, I 991; Fearnside, 1990; Lohmann, 1991). In all three countries, the area under forest is now largely confined to upland districts, with the better lowland timber having long disappeared. Indonesia still dominates in terms of the total area; an average of 56 per cent of land under forest cover being slightly higher than the overall figure for insular South-East Asia, but masking a variation from 7 per cent in Java to 82 per cent in Irian Jaya (FAO/GOI, 1990).

Other definitions of forest specify the dominant species, such as dipterocarp or teak, and the proportions likely to have commercial value. In Malaysia, forests are subdivided into dipterocarp, swamp or mangrove, while the Philippines employs seven categories including dipterocarp old growth' dipterocarp residual, pine forest closed and open, submarginal forest, mossy forest and mangroves. Indonesia adopts a classification of 'mixed hardwood' forests with management potential, which may be separated into dipterocarp and non-dipterocarp, commercial and non-commercial, in addition to tidal forest varieties. Myanmar has categories of teak and hardwood only. In spite of the richness in species of many of the forests, few timbers are actually worked, apart from several of the dipterocarps, teak, specialist varieties such as the Borneo ironwood (Eusideroxylon zwagerei) and the swamp softwoods such as ramin (Gonystylus bancanus). In Malaysia, for example, there are 2,500 tree species, of which 402 are designated as commercial, but only 30 are utilized to any extent (Whitmore, 1984).

TABLE 5.1 Closed Broadleaf Forests and Total Forest: Distribution in South-East Asia, 1980,1985 and 1990 (million hectares)


Closed Broadleaf Forest

Total Forest

1980 1985 (1990)a 1980 1990
Insular South-East Asia       155.2 139.6
Indonesia 113.6 113.5 (113.2)    
Malaysia 21.0        
Philippines 9.3 7.4 (6.7)    
Brunei 0.3        
Total 144.2        
Continental South-East Asia       101.1 86.7
Myanmar 31.2        
Thailand 8. 1 6.2 (5.2)    
Laos 7.6   (6.8)    
Vietnam 7.4 4 9 (34)    
  (revised to 6.2)        
Cambodia 7.1 (6.7)      
Total 61.4        

Sources: FAO ( 1987): Rao ( 1989, 1990a, 1990b).
a 1990 figures are projections, as official figures from the 1990 study are not yet available by country; some projections are from the 1 985 figures.

TABLE 5.2 Estimated Land Area Still under Forest in South-East Asia, Late 1980s (per cent)

Country Year Percentage Comment
Insular South-East Asia      
Indonesia 1990 56 Kalimantan 63%
      Irian Jaya 82%
      Java 7%
Malaysia 1989 56 Peninsula 42%
      Sarawak 68%
      Sabah 60%
Philippines 1988 21.5  
Brunei 1989 80 56% is primary rain forest
Continental South-East Asia      
Myanmar 1989 47 Intact forest: 36%
Thailand 1989 28 15%,a 1991
Laos 1990 47  
Vietnam 1989 28 18%, b 1991; 17.4%,1991c
Cambodia 1989 41  

a Lohmann (1991)
b Feamside ( 1990).
c Collins, Sayer and Whitmore (1991).

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